An Iconic Istanbul Dairy Shop Faces Eviction Threat
Kaymak, the beguiling Turkish version of clotted cream, seems to have a magical effect on people, leaving them longing for more days, even weeks and months, after they've tasted it.
Even more magical is the cloud-like kaymak doled out at Beşiktaş Kaymakcisi, an Istanbul institution better known as Pando's. Run by 92-year-old Pandelli Shestakof, the small shop has been in the family since 1895 and serves up what is perhaps Istanbul's most iconic plate of kaymak and honey, a breakfast combination that is awfully hard to beat.
Recently, some unsettling news has popped up: it appears that Pando's landlord is ordering the kaymak maker to vacate the premises so that they can be renovated an turned into a snack bar. Culinary Backstreets reports:
Though Pando, who has earned the love and respect of generations of Istanbullu with a full lifetime of slinging dairy goodness from the same shop in Beşiktaş, may be an institution, he is also a renter. His father was a renter before him, since 1895. The secret to a good kaymak business might be the wealth passed down through generations of his family, but the inheritance included the burden of a landlord-tenant relationship. And this summer, an eviction notice came.
We recently visited Pando’s little shop in the Beşiktaş market to learn more about the situation. We found 92-year-old Pandelli Shestakof, better known as Pando, sitting near the service counter and reveling in memories of the place he spent his entire life, the neighborhood he was born and raised in. “As a boy, I met Ataturk here in Beşiktaş once. He spoke to me,” said Pando. Fast-forward 30 years. He patted the shattered corner of a marble counter, “This is my reminder of September 6 and 7 [1955 when nationalist violence aimed at minority businesses raged through the neighborhood].” Pando’s shop was looted, the counter broken. He cleaned up, glued the broken pieces together and life went on. Even after it became impossible for him to keep his herd of water buffalo, which had been kept by his family in a pasture in Emirgan since Ottoman times, Pando kept making kaymak from the water buffalo milk of others. His shop was always full of approving customers. On the walls of the shop are photos of Pando’s befezzed forebears and drawings of his cows, framed newspaper clippings featuring Pando sent in from around the world. The interior space of the shop is as much a part of the legacy as the delicious clotted cream covered in honey or even the man himself. The three are inseparable.
Accompanied by lawyer/journalist Berk Çektir, who writes a legal advice column for the English-language paper Today’s Zaman, we quickly got down to the day’s news. The owner of the narrow two-story shop where Pando’s business has been located for almost 120 years wishes to evict and turn the space into a fast-food snack shop (or büfe). Pando has been given until August 15 to vacate. At a quick glance, Berk bey regretfully admitted that the eviction looked legal. “This is not a pure legal issue,” he said. “This is a question of preserving cultural heritage. This place must continue, somehow.”
Pando shrugged and grinned. Yuana, his wife and business partner, laughed cynically and moved on to a story about pretty young tourists posing for pictures with Pando that morning. Pando chuckled and waved her off. They’ve now seen it all, it would seem.
A #savepando campaign has been started on Twitter, with the hope that the landlord will give the ageing Pando, the last in a long line of kaymak makers, the time he needs to finish things up as he sees fit, rather than to be evicted like any regular tenant. Considering the culinary gift the Shestakof family has given Istanbul, that's the least he deserves.